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Sightings: Men in Black

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                 *    L I T E R A R Y   F R E E W A R E    *
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                 *           F O U N D A T I O N           *
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                  -=ð P R O U D L Y  í  P R E S E N T S ð=-
 "Sightings:  Men in Black" by Paul Greenberg.  (WORLD, Tulsa, OK;
 May 4, 1992.  CR: R. Seifried.)
      A professor of humanities and folklore at New York's Julliard
 School by the name of Peter Rojcewicz didn't tell anybody about his
 encounter with the Men in Black for years -- for fear of how people
 would react.  The professor says he was reading quietly in the
 University of Pennsylvania library when his Man in Black descended on
 him -- literally:  "He sat down, like he had dropped from the ceiling --
 all in one movement ..." and proceeded to talk about flying saucers.  He
 was gaunt, pale, about 6-1, 140 pounds, and wore a black suit, black
 shoes, black string tie and a bright white shirt, according to the
      The solemn visitor proceeded to get miffed when the professor said
 he wasn't sure he was interested in UFOs.  "Flying saucers are the most
 important fact of the century," the sinister figure screamed, "and you
 are not interested?"
      "I tried to calm him," the professor recalls.  He evidently
 succeeded because the Man in Black left in the same singular way he had
 arrived, but not before putting his hand on the professor's shoulder and
 saying, "Go well on your purpose."
      One of the professor's purposes since his close encounter of the
 strange kind has been to seek out others who have had experiences with
 the Men in Black.  Such meetings turn out to be numerous.  He calls it
 the MIB experience and says hundreds, perhaps thousands, of others have
 encountered the visitors, often in sets of three, and mostly after
 sightings of Unidentified Flying Objects.  Now that his researches are
 being widely reported, we have this not-so-eerie feeling that even more
 MIB experiences will be recounted.  Psychologists call it the power of
 suggestion.  Maybe a better name for it would be consciousness lowering.
      I myself once encountered an MIB at the front door of the house
 distributing Bible tracts.  He did not seem threatening, although his
 grammar was imperfect.  (Only if his grammar had been absolutely perfect
 would he have seemed alien in American society.)  Prof. Rojcewicz says
 the MIB phenomenon can be traced back to biblical times.
      Well, Genesis does describe Abraham "as he sat in the tent door in
 the heat of the day; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, lo,
 three men stood by him ..." but the account doesn't mention the color of
 their garments.  These three visitors didn't seem angry or threatening,
 as modern MIB are often described, and they even had a sense of humor.
 They told some improbably story about their host's nonagenarian spouse
 having a baby.  (Father Abraham himself was no spring chicken at the
      If these were MIB, there were only two of them by the time they
 made it down the road to Lot's place.  We know a guy who once got in a
 poker game with three men in black in the Army; it was not a profitable
 experience.  It was more like Hobbes' view of life in a state of nature:
 poor, nasty, brutish and short.
      According to the professor, "The Men in Black are part of the
 extraordinary-encounter continuum -- fairies, monsters, ETs, energy
 forms, flying saucers, flaming crosses. ..."  MIB usually come in
 threes, he adds, although they have been spotted in twos, fours and
 ones.  These days they may be carrying briefcases, another detail
 missing from the sketchy account in Genesis.
      You can be sure somebody is working on the screenplay.  Has Steven
 Spielberg heard about this?  Or is he responsible for it? What great
 pre-release publicity this research would make for an other-worldly
 flick.  I see Jack Nicholson, Jack Nicholson and Jack Nicholson in the
 title role of MIB, Gregory Peck or maybe Anthony Quinn as a contemporary
 Abraham.  Meryl Streep as a spry Sarah, with the voice-over a good
 imitation of the late John Huston's, only with a little more of the
 stained-glass quality. Can't you hear the story conference now?  "So
 these three guys drive up to Abe's sheep farm in a Porsche, see. ..."
 It's enough to make you squirm even before the MIB arrive.
      I happen to prefer my angels, like my tennis players, in regulation
 white but there's not dictating modern taste or the lack of it.  Even
 the most respectable tennis courts are a riot of color.  It's part of
 the Geraldo-ization of American taste. Then again, MIB may not prove as
 benign as angels; you might prefer meeting them in the Penn library than
 in a dark alley.
      Oops, excuse me, I'm told there are three gentlemen out in the
 lobby waiting to pay a call -- and that they look like they've just come
 from a funeral.

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